(4 stars) You Can Thank Me Later: A Novella by Kelly Harms
I’ve found the Audible originals to be hit or miss (Scalzi’s The Dispatcher was probably the only other one I really liked) but they’re free and I like Kelly Harms, so I gave this one a shot. It was pretty good — sort of sappy, sort of cheesy, lots of good descriptions of food. So basically, like a Hallmark movie in an audiobook — which I do not intend to be an insult.
Sophie Dicksinson is a chef, and every year she hosts Thanksgiving for her family — her two brothers and their significant others, and whomever she’s dating at the time. The book begins with Thanksgiving 2016 — when one of her sisters-in-law is pregnant and about to burst, and the other has just received terrible news: her cancer is back, and terminal. Annette makes Sophie promise to take care of her husband Charlie after she’s gone. A challenge that Sophie takes very seriously, despite grieving for her friend.
I’m someone who takes Thanksgiving traditions very seriously — as does Sophie — so I saw myself a little in this. It’s a sweet little story, and I liked how each chapter was just about the dinner that year — like a little time capsule.
(4 stars) The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
I saw this on a Buzzfeed list of young adult fiction, and while it’s definitely YA, I would recommend this one even if that’s not normally your jam. It’s really well-written, and definitely not as cutesy as some of the other YA I’ve read recently.
Essie Hicks has lived her entire seventeen years in front of cameras. Her father is one of those wealthy Evangelical preachers you hear about the south, and he and his wife have raised their six children on a reality TV show.
“On the day I turn seventeen, there is a meeting to decide whether I should have the baby or if sneaking me to a clinic for an abortion is worth the PR risk. I am not invited, which is just as well, since my being there might imply that I have some choice in the matter and I know that I have none.”
Of course behind the scenes, things are a little different. The book starts out with Essie revealing to her mother that she’s pregnant. Her mother has a meeting with the TV producers, and they decide to arrange a marriage for Essie to a classmate. It seems that Essie’s mother is running everything, but you realize very quickly that Essie is manipulating things behind the scenes. She’s got a long-term plan, and her journey getting to the end will surprise you.
I really enjoyed this. Essie is a great main character — there’s so much going on in her mind. The boy that she picks for marriage is also a very well fleshed out character. I really couldn’t put this book down, I was so interested to see what Essie was planning and how she was going to make it happen.
(2 stars) The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
I really wanted to like this. It is such a neat concept. In a college town in California, students fall into a deep sleep that they don’t wake up from — some just stay asleep, others die after a short period time. With no idea on how this disease is being spread, the college and town are put under quarantine. The book takes place around several different narratives, as we watch how different citizens deal with the disaster.
The main character (or closest thing to it) is a college student named Mei. She and a boy called Weird Matthew bond over the tragedy. We also have two little girls named Sophia and Libby. Their father is some sort of survivalist and they are perhaps in the best situation to go on living after he is infected. There’s also their neighbors, a young couple with a baby. And then a psychiatrist brought in to deal with the disaster.
The setup is so cool. Basically, we’re watching the community being affected by the disease slowly fall apart while the rest of the nation calls it a hoax, or claims it’s an invention of big Pharma. But oh my God, it was SO boring. It just dragged on and on for me. I think part of the problem is that in Mei, who gets a lot the focus, was just not a compelling character. And the boy she’s obsessed with bugged the hell out of me (he has a backstory that’s supposed to be redemptive that made me roll my eyes in a big way). Sophia and Libby probably had the most interesting story, but we don’t stay with them long enough to get super hooked. Looking back, I had a really similar reaction to Walker’s The Age of Miracles. Great concept, poor execution.
(2 stars) The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date #3) by Jasmine Guillory
Here’s another one I really wanted to like but just couldn’t get there. The Wedding Party is the third in Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date series. The first book was great. The second book…I thought it was okay (although a lot of people disagreed). The third book was pretty disappointing to me. I just didn’t feel there was enough of a spark between the two main characters, and the story itself was pretty boring overall.
Alexa and Drew, from the first book, have gotten engaged. The two main characters in this book are Theo and Maddie — Alexa’s two best friends. In typical rom-com fashion, they hate each other for reasons I can’t quite remember (I think Theo insulted Alexa’s job?) but they kiss and then have sex. The rest of the book involves them having secret sex while (of course) falling in love with each other.
It’s very predictable, and the elements that could spice it up (hot sex, interesting obstacles, or — my favorite — sassy best friends) do not make an appearance. Guillory has one more book in this series — Royal Holiday — but I might be done here.